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6 Investigates Follows Up: Packery damage worse than first thought

Posted: 5:02 PM, Oct 01, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-01 19:57:38-04

The damage at Packery Channel is worse than originally thought.

A new study released by the city’s engineering department has determined Packery Channel was not designed to withstand the coastal storm surge seen in recent years, especially from hurricanes like Hurricane Harvey.

And since the hurricane hit more than a year ago, the condition of the channel has worsened after that major blow to the channel.

The south wall took the brunt of the damage. Several sections of the walls have collapsed and along with it a sidewalk system that has washed away in some areas.

A root cause analysis requested by the city engineering department determined the erosion from Hurricane Harvey exceeded the channel’s original design predictions. And it’s not the first time.

In years past, the city has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair the channel walls caused by similar damage. Now, the city has a better understanding of why.

“Based on what I know now, I think that entire system is going to have to be replaced,” said Jeff Edmonds, director of Corpus Christi Engineering Services.

A full replacement could require the city to tear out the channel’s concrete revetment system, which looks like concrete puzzle pieces that are interlocked through a cable support system. That system has failed.

The study also determined the damage has worsened since Hurricane Harvey. Recent heavy rains further washed out sand behind that revetment system – which caused it to collapse. A compounding factor is the channel walls weren’t built to the depth of the channel. After a certain depth, there’s just bare sand, according to the study.

It’s something that District 4 Councilman Greg Smith wants the city to see repaired, and soon.

“We need to be going ahead with this,” he said. “It needs to be fixed and if we get bigger rain events like we’ve had in the past few weeks. It will cause more erosion.”

The replacement could look similar to what the city’s done in the past: piles of large rocks, which engineers call riprap or a jetty system similar to the channel at Port Aransas.

The riprap repair method has held up well in the past, Edmonds said.

Packery Channel has failed several times since it was built.

As 6 Investigates has reported, there were problems while it was under construction. In 2005, storm surge from Hurricane Emily eroded the channel walls while they were under construction. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers oversaw the design and construction of the channel – which cost about $20 million.

The problems then are something engineers now say should have been a warning sign. The cost to replace and improve the channel walls could be as much as $11 million, Edmonds said.

It is money that city taxpayers will have to spend in hopes that FEMA will reimburse them.

The mayor and City Council will decide how the city will pay for it. City engineers hope to have a construction contract ready in the new year. And if all goes as planned, construction could start before the 2019 hurricane season begins.